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    Isaac & the Akedah

    The binding of Isaac, by Adi Holzer

    I used to think the Akedah was about Abraham. Disregarding the Hebrew phrase Akedat Yitzchak (binding of Isaac), I heard only the opening words, “God tested Abraham”.

    God told Abraham to ascend the mountain, He told him to prove his piety, He told him to take his son and sacrifice him as an offering. The subject of the narrative was Abraham.

    What impression does Abraham give? Obedient, unresisting, unquestioning. A good man certainly, but no mind of his own? When God commands, Abraham complies. We used to think the patriarch had moral power, but now he squeaks barely a murmur.

    David Hartman says (“A Living Covenant”, 1985), “We are not only amazed at the unintelligible demand of God, but dumbfounded when Abraham, who had so boldly stood before God and argued for justice, now submits unquestioningly.

    “What can explain this unconditional obedience to Divine authority? The man who engages in moral struggle with God, becomes suddenly like Noah, the man who offered no objection when God announced the destruction of the world.”

    This leads us to question the three main characters, God, Abraham and Isaac. What was God expecting to prove? Why didn’t Abraham argue with God? Why was Isaac so supine?

    * The God question: God, omniscient and eternal, knew in advance what was going to happen. But He wanted to give the world a message. The world needed to know that faithfulness to principle comes at a price.

    * The Abraham question: The patriarch dared not argue because he knew it mattered critically to God to show that destiny sometimes requires a believer to go through agony.

    * The Isaac question: Only in the Midrash does Isaac come to life. Isaac realised that he was to be a touchstone. He could not be certain what would happen, but he knew his father was being put to the test. He loved his father and he knew there was something he could do for him. The crucial thing is that Isaac survived, though there is a Midrash that he died but God brought him back to life, because He had to be fair to Isaac.

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